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'Game of Thrones' trailer breaks record – how the show increased its audience

A recent trailer for 'Thrones' became the most-watched trailer in its first day in HBO history. How do shows like 'Thrones' and the Fox show 'Empire' draw more viewers as time goes on?

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    'Game of Thrones' stars Emilia Clarke.
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A new trailer for the HBO fantasy drama “Game of Thrones” has broken a record for the network. 

The trailer has so far gotten 23 million views on the show’s Facebook page and more than 8 million on YouTube. This breaks the record set by the trailer for last season, the drama’s fifth, which drew 27 million views during the first day it was online. 

“Thrones” has become the most-watched show in the history of HBO, which is also the home of such past popular programs as “The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City,” and “True Blood.” 

The show’s next season will debut on April 24. The events of the upcoming episodes are almost assured to go beyond those depicted in the books by George R.R. Martin, as the last season reached the end of the plotlines as written by Martin for many of the characters.

“Thrones” takes place in the fantasy world of Westeros and depicts the struggle among the characters to rule the country. Stars include Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, and Maisie Williams, among many others.

Like some others on TV, “Thrones” is a show that has grown its audience over time. The season finale for the fifth season, which aired last June, was the most-watched episode of the show ever. The increase is a pattern that has continued with every season finale during the show’s run. 

This is unusual, as noted by Variety writer Rick Kissell when discussing the show in 2014. (At that point, the show’s ratings still hadn’t gotten as high as they would in 2015 with the fifth season finale.) “ 'Thrones' became the rare series to increase its audience for three consecutive seasons,” Mr. Kissell wrote. 

While ratings for some episodes in the middle of these seasons are lower, the season finales keep attracting more people.

Normally, ratings for shows stay steady during a show’s run or drop, if viewer interest in the show wanes. There are some other shows that, like “Thrones,” were able to increase their viewership for at least some time. 

AMC’s “The Walking Dead” achieved rising ratings – or at least it did, as industry watchers have noted that the show’s 2016 ratings are a bit lower than last year. However, the show steadily increased its ratings for each season premiere over its first five seasons, with the show’s fifth season debut becoming the highest-rated episode ever at the time. 

Fox’s “Empire” was another show that built on its ratings as its first season went on, though ratings have now dropped. But ratings for each episode increased as the 2015 first season of the music industry drama continued, with the first season finale ranking as the highest-watched episode of the show at that time. “ 'Empire' launched big, it became huge, and it closed colossally,” TheWrap writer Tony Maglio summarized at the time.

What helped these shows increase their audience at least temporarily?

International Business Times writer Eric Brown suggested that in the case of “Thrones” and “Walking,” more TV watchers were being won over by the promise of offerings beyond the Big Four networks. 

“Viewers are increasingly excited about high-concept cable dramas, and many are willing to abandon traditional network TV in order to [watch them],” Mr. Brown wrote. 

Meanwhile, for “Thrones,” BBC writer Ken Tucker suggested that a variety of factors, including an intriguing setting and skilled actors, draw audiences.

“In appealing to its audience’s need for escapism, 'Game of Thrones' revitalized a genre that few knew needed revitalizing: the sword-and-sandals saga,” Mr. Tucker wrote. “…The TV series benefits from the fact that Martin is not a literary writer; he’s a wooly yarn-spinner, rolling out a cleverly stitched tapestry of interconnected subplots … It helps, of course, that 'Game of Thrones' features many fine actors who make their characters so identifiable. Chief among them is Peter Dinklage.”

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